Plastic food wraps might not be a bane to the environment for much longer. Rutgers University and Harvard University researchers have developed a plant-based coating that would be greener and safer than plastic packaging. The approach “sprays” fibers based on biopolymer and polysaccharide (the most common carbohydrate in food) that wrap around your food. The resulting protection is strong enough to protect against bruising, and includes natural antimicrobial agents (citric acid, nisin and thyme oil) that can fight harmful bacteria and viruses in addition to preventing spoilage.
In tests, the coating extended the shelf life of avocados about 50 percent. It takes just three days to biodegrade, and you can rinse the coating off with water. Scientists even envision turning the fibers into sensors that could activate to kill bacteria.
There’s no mention of near-term plans to put this spray-on wrap replacement into production. It could be a long while before you’re picking up bread or fruit with eco-friendly protection. Still, it may be just a matter of time before this technology reaches your grocery store. The coating could reduce the load on landfills, limit the spread of microplastics and minimize food waste.